In restaurant Onder de Toren, in Hansbeke outside of Ghent, 32 year old chef Sam van Houcke creates wonderful Flemish food. It’s an up and coming restaurant, and he has been included in the 2015 Flanders Kitchen Rebels, Outstanding Young Chefs.
This is where we finished my trip to Belgium back in September. Yes, it was an intense trip, with a lot to write about! We had an excellent meal, three courses plus snacks, and plenty of excellent beer. Læs mere Beer dinner at Onder de Toren
De Halve Maan (The Half Moon Brewery) is an old brewery in the city center of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Bruges. When visiting, I only knew Bruges from the movie “In Bruges” , and from plenty of recommendations from other beer travellers who thought it was a beautiful place to visit (“In Bruges” on Amazon).
The brewery was operating at a minimum just ten years ago, but they’re rapidly growing. Their famous range of abbey style beers, Straffe Hendrik was introduced in the 1980s, but for a long time brewed elsewhere. Now it’s brewed on the site, along with the rising star Brugse Zot, which was launched when sixth generation owner Xavier Vanneste took over the brewery in 2005. Læs mere Brouwerij De Halve Maan in Bruges
The hop harvest has to be one of the highlights on a beer lover’s bucket list. Earlier this year, I could finally tick that box. Rewind the calendar to mid-September. Sunday afternoon, the Visit Flanders press tour is visiting the Hop Museum in Poperinge, and the next morning, we take off to one of the hop farms to see the hops and the hop harvest.
The press tour was carefully planned to coincide with the time of the hop harvest, and it was a great bonus to combine a beer trip to one of the world’s classic beer countries with a visit to the hop fields. The place we visited was the hop farm t’Hoppecruyt, which is open to visitors in smaller or larger groups. Benedikte Desmyter, fourth generation owner, gave us an excellent tour of the place. Læs mere Hop harvest in Poperinge
t’Hommelhof is a world famous beer cuisine restaurant in Watou in West Flanders. Since the restaurant opened in 1984, it has been one of the first restaurants to use beer in the kitchen, to think beer and food together, and to serve beer at the table as an equal to wine. We visited the restaurant on Sunday night of my beer trip to Belgium, after a visit to the nearby St. Bernard brewery.
The chef at t’Hommelhof, Stefaan Coutteneye, has kept the same kitchen philosophy for 30 years now: Local ingredients, old traditions, and the use of beer in the kitchen. And finally, the world has caught up, and terroir and tradition are the hippest things in the restaurant world. For those who want to catch up, Stefaan has even written a book Cooking With Belgian Beers which came out last year. Læs mere t’ Hommelhof beer dinner and St. Bernardus
Poperinge is the center of the Belgian hop growing area, and as such, it’s natural that you would find a hop museum here. Poperinge Hop Museum is an interesting little exhibition in a very exciting building. In the 19th century, hops had to be brought to the communal storage, where they would be weighed and quality checked by the authorities. That is the building that houses the museum today, and that’s a big part of the experience.
Hops can be grown in a broad belt spanning between latitudes 35 and 55 degrees, north or south of the equator, though in Europe, it’s limited to a few small areas. In Belgium, hop growing has diminished to almost nothing compared to a hundred years ago. In 1900, 2200 ha. was used for hops, with more half of it being in the Aalst area, and most of the rest in Poperinge. In 1980 there were still 800 ha., but today, the figure is just 160 ha. and 98% of it is in Poperinge. Læs mere Poperinge Hop Museum
On our trip to Belgium, we had some great food as well as beer, and the beer pairing lunch at Brouwerij Roman was a highlight. When we arrived and were introduced to the brewery and its history, we had a couple of light snacks, and after the brewery tour we went to the tasting room, and had four plates of more good stuff.
First we had a little taster of a caramelized onion soup with Ename Pater. It’s the newest beer in the Ename abbey beer range, modelled after the “Single”, the beer that the monks brew for their own consumption. It’s a 5.5% blonde with a nice hoppy character. The soup was a little too sweet for me, and at the same time the hop bitterness that the beer had added to the soup wasn’t very harmonious. It’s always dangerous cooking with hoppy beer. Læs mere Beer pairing lunch at Brouwerij Roman
Brouwerij Roman is the oldest family owned brewery in Belgium, making a wide range of Belgian beer styles as well as the Romy Pils. The brewery in Oudenaarde dates back 1545, and is now in the hands of Lode and Carlo Roman, 14th generation of the brewing family.
The current buildings are from the 1930s and they are an awe-inspiring sight. The huge yard with buildings on all four sides reminded me of a Danish country estate (like Hagenskov), and I suppose with its private quarters, horse stables and grain storage, it isn’t very far from the truth, though further production buildings make the brewery even bigger. Læs mere Brouwerij Roman – Brewing Through Generations
Brewery De Ryck, in the village of Herzele in the Flemish Ardennes, is the smallest of the Belgian Family Brewers. Dating back to 1886, the brewery is now run by fourth and fifth generation, and the future is looking bright. The brewery used to produce only three beers, darker in colour and only on tap in the local region. In 2007, bottles were introduced and new beers followed.
We began our brewery visit with a short introduction to the brewery history. Today, it’s run by An de Ryck, fourth generation of the family, and the first female brewing engineer in Belgium. She’s assisted by her son, Bram, and daughter Miek, and just one more employee. Læs mere Brouwerij de Ryck – True Family Brewers
Antwerp’s De Koninck beer is a truly iconic beer, served in the equally iconic bolleke glass. In fact, you can go into any bar in Belgium and order a “bolleke” or an “Antwerpen bolleke” and you’ll get a De Koninck in the proper glass. Antwerp is a confident city, and they’re proud of their bolleke.
De Koninck is a part of Belgian Family Brewers, and although it was sold to international brewery giants Duvel-Moortgat in 2010, it still counts because Duvel-Moortgat is also family owned. They have put a lot of money into the old city brewery, and we visited a very impressive, completely new brewery tour. Læs mere Visiting the De Koninck brewery tour in Antwerp
Stokerij de Molenberg, which is brewery Het Anker’s whisky distillery, was our first visit on the second day of my trip to Belgium. Malt makes beer and malt makes whisky, so it’s no wonder that many brewers have thought about making whisky. However, the Gouden Carolus brewers, Het Anker, had a special reason to go into distilling.
The brewery in Mechelen dates back to 1471 when nuns brewed beer, but it was taken over by a genever distilling family in 1872. The fifth generation owner of the brewery, Charles Leclef, bought back and renovated the buildings of the long gone Distillery de Molenberg in 2009 and has started whisky production. Læs mere Stokerij de Molenberg – Gouden Carolus Whisky